Tuesday, January 17, 2012

... and A Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe that 2012 is upon us: it feels like just yesterday that I was heavily embroiled in 2011 planning. I thought I'd take a minute to look back at the year that was, and a sneak peek at the year that will be. Now if only I could find a way to bring in the state of how things currently are, I'd be the SAS version of Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'... one of my all-time favourite works of literature. So let's get down to brass tacks, shall we?

SAS Canada Community Launch
Without a shadow of a doubt, this was the biggest, most exciting element of my year. The concept of developing a community of SAS users sharing best practices and engaging with SAS Canada staff through dialogue, debate and the occasional diatribe has been high on my list for a few years. We're currently sitting at nearly 500 members and growing daily... and I must say, in many ways, it's exceeded my expectations in these early days. SAS Canada staff have been increasingly engaged through blogs and discussion groups. A few superstars have emerged: some are new to the SAS world (looking at you, Chris Battiston) and some are long-time SAS supporters. The best thing about the environment is that we continue to grow and learn together; mistakes have been made and corrected. Triumphs and successes have been shared and celebrated. Moving into 2012 I'm even more excited than ever (and that's saying something: I'm not exactly a subtle person). Even more SAS Canada industry experts and solution specialists have signed on to help grow the type and range of voices in the Community... and there's a distinct buzz about the site through the users I've talked with this year. I'm looking forward to even more value being offered through new functionality we've enabled as well.

Canadian User Groups: Steady as She Goes
Of course, it would be remiss of me not to give a nod to the great work done by the 19 different user group executive committees across the country in 2011. Attendance at user group meetings remained high, despite challenging economic conditions which kept many SAS users tied to their desks. Given the value that these marketers, analysts, statisticians and instructors add to their various organizations, it's not hard to imagine why it might have been a challenge for these critical corporate components to get to the meetings... and yet they did! I credit each and every volunteer executive member for helping maintain the appeal and value of the user group meetings. The knowledge of their communities, willingness to present or help with logistics and receptiveness to new ways of thinking about SAS ensured that content was fresh, relevant and compelling: the best way to guarantee continued enthusiasm for these meetings. The user group schedule has already been established for the spring, 2012 meetings: I encourage you to make a point of dropping in to one near you if you haven't already. Getting to know SAS users in your field and geography while also interacting with SAS Canada thought leaders and getting enjoying great presentations is worth the half-day investment of your time.

insights Continues To Grow
The Canadian SAS user newsletter kind of got away from me a bit last year... a reluctant casualty of many plates spinning on many sticks on my end. That's not to say it went away: it just fell to others to maintain the high quality of SAS news, techie tips, event listings and interviews which the 5,000+ subscribers have come to expect. I'm quite happy that it's back in my hands for the foreseeable future; I've missed it, to be honest! This year I'm expecting partcipation from SAS Canada staff and supporters to continue to grow... and with it, the readership. The upcoming issue is well into the planning cycle and as a preview to you, o devoted reader, the theme will be 'big data'. I can't wait for the content to start coming in... but perhaps I've said too much already. You'll just have to hang on until the end of February for the full edition to arrive. Trust me, it will be worth the wait!

These are the 3 major thrusts of my focus moving into 2012. Of course, there are lots of other pieces of the pie which I could expand on such as ongoing initiatives with the user groups in LinkedIn, Facebook and of course, the SAS Canada YouTube channel... and Twitter too! I'm a firm believer in leaving something to the imagination; and if there's one thing I've learned in my time at SAS, it's that SAS users have extremely vivid imaginations! There will be lots more to come in 2012, I can promise you that much.

The user group season is fast approaching and I'll be back with blogs about the upcoming meetings. We'll be kicking off the year in Halifax at the end of February, so you can be sure you'll hear from me by then. In the interim, I hope to see you in an online SAS community!

Until then...